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Dorothy Hood, José María Velasco Maidana, and Khory the Cat

Guest Posts, Performing & Visual Arts

Katy Allred, graduate student assistant from the University of North Texas Library Science program, provides us with insight into the lives of Dorothy Hood, José María Velasco Maidana, and Khory the Cat.

José María Velasco Maidana and Khory (José María Velasco Maidana Papers, University of Houston Special Collections)

Dorothy Hood and José María Velasco Maidana met in Mexico City in the 1940s and married in 1946. She was a young American painter and writer starting to make a name for herself, and he was a well-known Bolivian composer and conductor 20 years her senior. The two never had children together, but they did have an important family member early in their marriage who accompanied them on their many travels – a cat named Khory. Khory the cosmopolitan cat traveled by rail from Mexico to New York City, sat for a portrait with Velasco Maidana, and was even featured in a Houston Chronicle article by Ann Holmes, the newspaper’s fine arts editor who wrote: “The Maidanas are on their way to New York for a five-month stay, in company with their creole cat, name Khory, who travels-with no sense of disgrace at all-in a birdcage!”

Hood and Velasco Maidana traveled together often, but sometimes their work obligations took them in different directions. Velasco Maidana wrote several letters to Dorothy during these times apart in the late 1950s, in which he would sometimes update her on Khory’s activities, and he always signed off with salutations from both himself and Khory the cat – or sometimes just from Khory. In one letter, Velasco Maidana writes, “[Khory] received the kisses that you sent him and for his part today sends you many meows, which I hope sounds very sweet to your ears.”

Rabies vaccination card for Khory the Cat (José María Velasco Maidana Papers, University of Houston Special Collections)

The story of Khory the cat is a small facet of the rich and varied materials in the Dorothy Hood Papers and the José María Velasco Maidana Papers, which are both now open for research. Hood’s materials include correspondence, scrapbooks, exhibition programs, writings, including manuscripts of her unpublished autobiography, photographs, publicity and press, and realia that paints a picture of a woman making her living as an artist in Houston in the last half of the 20th century. Velasco Maidana’s collection includes handwritten musical scores of his compositions, correspondence, scrapbooks, press, recordings of performances of his music, and a variety of materials related to the Amerindia ballet he composed, including the scores, paintings of costume designs, choreography notes, and correspondence. The University of Houston Special Collections is currently open by appointment; for more information, please contact Christian Kelleher at cdkelleher@uh.edu.

Remembering Nicholas John Tsacrios

Performing & Visual Arts

Nicholas John Tsacrios

Nicholas John Tsacrios passed away in Sarasota, Florida on May 4, 2020 at the age of 92 from natural causes. Nick was the long-time companion of José Quintero, legendary Tony Award winning Broadway Director and Founder of Circle in the Square in Manhattan.

Nick was born on November 5, 1927 in Clearwater, Florida to Greek parents. His loving mother Sevasti Tsacrios passed away when Nick was only two years old. Nick was raised by his loving father John M. Tsacrios, Sr. who was a prominent pioneer merchant and civic leader in Clearwater, Florida.

Nick is survived by one brother Manuel “Buster” Tsacrios and a half-sister Maria John Tsacrios Molett and half-brothers John M. Tsacrios, Jr. and Frank John Tsacrios.

Nick was the eighth of nine children and the first to graduate from college due to the encouragement and support of his stepmother Xanthippi Tsacrios who he and José loved very much. Nick studied at the University of Florida and at the University of Madrid in Spain where he learned Spanish and became a bullfighter.

Nick was a creative adventurous person who loved cooking, entertaining, gardening, the arts, and caring for animals especially his loving cat Gato. He was renowned for his wonderful sense of humor that he got from his father.

José Quintero and Nicholas John Tsacrios

Nick met José Quintero in the 1950’s in New York City when Nick was at the height of his career as an advertising executive in Manhattan. Nick and José had endearing friendships throughout their lives with renowned artists Liv Ullmann, Gloria Vanderbilt, Vanessa Redgrave, Tennessee Williams, Mexican star Dolores del Rio, Jason Robards, Roddy McDowall, Charles Nelson Reilly, dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, Greek film actor and artist Vassili Lambrinos, and Angelina Fiordellisi of the Cherry Lane Theater in New York City.

Nick was a significant source of support for José Quintero’s work as a lecturer and professor at the University of Houston, Florida State University, the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre in Palm Beach, Florida, and during Quintero’s theater workshops in Los Angeles, California, and directing plays at Houston’s Alley Theater. Nick and José worked closely for many years with their beloved friend Sydney Berger, the revered former Director, Producer, and Mentor of the University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance.

Nick was instrumental in establishing the José Quintero Archives at the University of Houston which also houses the José Quintero Theater. Nick maintained a supportive relationship with the José Quintero Theater in New York City.

During Nick’s later years in Sarasota he was blessed to be surrounded by many loving, caring friends especially George Karabatsos from Saint Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church where Nick loved to volunteer.

Memorial services were held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas, Saint Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church in Sarasota, Florida, and Nick’s beloved Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

John M. Tsacrios, Jr. brother of Nicholas John Tsacrios, provided this memorial.

A Tribute to Michael Galbreth

In the News, Performing & Visual Arts

We at UH Special Collections pay tribute to Michael Galbreth (1956 – 2019), whom we have had the enormous pleasure of working with and getting to know. Galbreth and the other half of the Art Guys, Jack Massing, donated their archives to Special Collections in 2013. And just over a year ago, Galbreth donated the New Music America Collection. Galbreth organized the 1986 NMA festival in Houston and served as president of its governing board, the New Music Alliance, from 1986 to 1989. A finding aid is available for this collection.

Through photographs of materials that Galbreth has donated to UH Special Collections–particularly from the recently acquired New Music America Collection–we aim to highlight the stories that they tell. A number of institutions and individuals have also commemorated the importance of Galbreth’s life to Houston and the art community, including:

Michael Galbreth (1956 – 2019)

Among the approximately 84 boxes (and over a terabyte of electronic files) that make up The Art Guys Records are materials documenting the creation of The Statue of Four Lies, part of the UH Public Art collection. This selection of items shows an early mockup of the plaza where the statue is installed in Lynn Eusan Park. Other items include the proposal for the statue and a flyer and invitation to its unveiling.

These items from the New Music America Collection document a parade with the Irreversible Marching Band led by musician Tom Cora during the 1986 NMA Festival held in Houston in 1986. Included are a flyer advertising the parade, which happened on April 5, 1986, and a two-page letter to Galbreth (one page on the back of a tour schedule for Cora’s band Skeleton Crew). In the letter, Cora writes: “Did you see the parade? The marching band was somewhat of a rag-tag unit, to be sure; but I couldn’t have been more pleased with the experience. What my Houston musicians lacked in musical skills and experience, they certainly made up for in enthusiasm and hard work.”

The 1986 New Music America parade culminated at the grand opening of the Cullen Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, where John Cage performed. Included in this image are a program of the NMA event for Cage’s “Ryoanji” and two photographs, one of Cage and the musicians who performed with him that day and another of soprano Isabelle Ganz in front of Cage’s score.

Among the Houston NMA events was Astrosounds, an experimental music concert inside the Astrodome that included a performance in which Russell Frehling launched a blimp equipped with a microphone, monitoring radio waves and feedback patterns in the space. Pictured here are a program, news clippings, and a photograph of Galbreth in the Astrodome on the day of the performance.

UH Libraries Special Collections Acquires Ben DeSoto Papers

Performing & Visual Arts

The University of Houston Libraries Special Collections is proud to announce its acquisition of the Ben DeSoto Papers. Ben DeSoto is a Houston native with a photography career spanning over three decades, and his collection documents Houston’s art, history, and culture.

The Ben DeSoto Papers document the Houston art scene and capture the images of hundreds of Houston’s visual artists. DeSoto’s collection also contains photos of hundreds of musicians and performances at many now-defunct Houston venues, including Mary Jane’s, The Axiom, and The Island. The latter venue is the subject of DeSoto’s documentary Night at the Island, which is currently in production. DeSoto describes The Island as

. . . the first venue in Houston where Punk Rock music was heard . . . From 1978 to 1982, the place was a home away from home for many and part of underground scene. Butthole Surfers, Black Flag, Big Boys, The Dicks shared the stage with locals Mydolls, Judys, AK 47, The Hates, and many others.

DeSoto’s collection contains images from these and many other musicians along with photographs of the Houston street skaters Urban Animals, many of which were exhibited at the Glassel and the Houston Center for Photography in the late 1980’s, and the Menil in 1998.  Additionally, the collection contains personal and family documents.

Judy Pruitt at 18 years old, under the Pierce Elevated, Christmas week 1988.

Judy Pruitt at 18 years old, under the Pierce Elevated, Christmas week 1988. Photo courtesy of Ben Desoto.

Perhaps most importantly, the Ben DeSoto Papers document DeSoto’s life’s work the Understanding Poverty Project in which he allows us into the daily lives of Houston’s homeless and poor. DeSoto explains that a chance encounter with Judy Pruitt in 1988 led to a decades-long collaboration in “sharing to the public an understanding of underlying causes of chronic homelessness.” Desoto also documented Ben White’s life for over thirty years. Like Pruitt, White battled the cycles of homelessness, drug addiction, and poverty. What is unique to this project is that DeSoto documents the experiences and struggles of Pruitt, White, and their families—over such an extended period of time. Currently, DeSoto is working on Quiet Storms of Reform–what he calls a “poverty solutions documentary film.”

DeSoto received numerous awards during his long career at the Houston Post, including the

  • Fuji Fine Arts Award for Contributions to Society (1987)
  • National Headliners, Outstanding Feature Photography (1989)
  • Inter American Press Association, First in Photography (1990)
  • Texas Correction Association Award for Media Excellence for “Documenting the Lives of Children and Families at Risk” (1991)

Ben White was born April 27, 1957, and grew up in Houston’s Fourth Ward (Freedman’s Town), Fifth Ward, and Sunny Side, all working-poor black neighborhoods.

Ben White was born April 27, 1957, and grew up in Houston’s Fourth Ward (Freedman’s Town), Fifth Ward, and Sunny Side, all working-poor black neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of Ben Desoto.

In 2000 Desoto was awarded for his work with the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, Inc.

However, it is the recognition he has received for his more creative work, after his newspaper career, that he most values. A selection of his later awards follows:

  • Houston Press, Best Art Exhibit and Best Photographer in Houston award from the for his exhibition His Understanding Poverty at City Hall (2009)
  • Houston Arts Alliance grant for The Significance of Making Art
  • “100 Creative People in Houston,” Houston Press (2011)
  • UNESCO Bioethics Global Arts Competition for his project My Mother’s Dying, which to date has exhibited in Hong Kong, Houston, New York City, Mexico City, and Rome (2013)
  • Top Ten Photographers listings: Houston Press, Free Press Houston, Green Mountain Express (2014)

In 2009, the office of Mayor Bill White commissioned City Workers of a Working City, Houston, Texas, which was installed on the third floor of City Hall. The Significance of Making Art was included in the 2009 No Zoning Show at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston and at the Artery (2010).

During his internship at the Houston Post the summer of 1980, Desoto particularly enjoyed his assignment taking photographs at The Island, Houston’s first punk rock venue.

During his internship at the Houston Post the summer of 1980, Desoto particularly enjoyed his assignment taking photographs at The Island, Houston’s first punk rock venue. Photo courtesy of Ben Desoto.

DeSoto’s collection at UH Special Collections totals approximately 44 linear feet, and most materials date from the 1980s through 2016. Five linear feet of the collection came to UH Special Collections organized by Patricia Hernandez of Studio One through the CALL project. Included in this portion are photographs and negatives documenting Houston artists and art events as well as photographs of bands and musicians, primarily at Houston venues. While most of Desoto’s later work has been donated to UH Special Collections, his journalistic work for the Houston Post, as well as a majority of hip hop and materials related to Houston’s Fifth Ward neighborhood, have been donated to the African American Library at the Gregory School.

The collection is currently being processed and a finding aid is not yet available publicly. However, arrangements to use materials in the collection can be made by contacting Performing and Visual Arts curator Mary Manning at mmmanning@uh.edu.

HAHA Fellow Bids Farewell

Department News, Houston & Texas History, Performing & Visual Arts

In August 2013 I was extremely excited to begin my position as the Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections. I was straight out of my graduate program at the University of Michigan and ready to dive into the field as a professional archivist. I was also thrilled to return to Houston, my hometown and favorite city, and to work with materials that reflected the community where I grew up. Over the following two years, I worked on some amazing projects, developed inspiring working relationships, and gained knowledge and skills that I’ll use throughout my career.

Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow, Stacey Lavender (far right), showcases items from the Main Street Theater Papers at last week's Brown Bag event

Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow, Stacey Lavender (far right), showcases items from the Main Street Theater Records.

The two largest portions of my time here at UH have been dedicated to arranging and describing archival collections and to assisting with the curation of digital projects. I have worked with a wide variety of materials in our Houston Hip Hop, Houston and Texas History, Performing and Visual Arts, and Contemporary Literature collections. I’ll admit that when I started, I was most excited to work with Houston hip hop materials. I felt that hip hop materials were in particularly great need of collecting and that they would resonate particularly strongly with students. I was right! But at the same time, I discovered that each of the collections I worked with, whether they included materials from a German singing club with over 100 years of history, one of the largest regional theatres in the nation, or 1970s and 1980s science fiction and fantasy conventions, documented an important part of our history and held direction connections to the Houston community. I’m proud to have contributed to making so many new materials accessible to our students and researchers, and working with such a diverse array of materials certainly kept me on my toes and made coming to work every day exciting!

I’m grateful that this position also provided many opportunities to work directly with our patrons. Throughout my time at UH I spent about eight hours a week manning the reference desk, and this January I also began serving as contact point for Performing and Visual Arts reference. It’s always my pleasure to help students and researchers find the materials they need. One of the most exciting (and unexpected!) outreach projects I worked on was co-curating the “Nina Vance and the Alley Theatre: A Life’s Work” exhibit with our Architecture & Art Library Coordinator Catherine Essinger. Designing and implementing the exhibit, which ran from October, 2014 to May, 2015, gave me the opportunity to work with people all over the library, across campus, and with former and current Alley Theatre actors and staff. I’ll always remember it as one of my favorite accomplishments here.

UH has also been very supportive of my professional development, which I think is essential for any early-career librarian or archivist. I have attended several conferences and workshops during my time here, and completed my first professional presentation at the Society of Southwest Archivists convention in 2014.

But perhaps my favorite thing about working at the University of Houston Special Collections was the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of colleagues, both in our department and across the library. I’ll miss coming to work with them every day, but I look forward to our paths crossing in the future as I continue my archives career.

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